Right now, I assume Big Little Lies fans everywhere are celebrating. The HBO fan-favorite’s core four actresses all netted Emmys acting nominations — Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman for Best Actress; Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley for Best Supporting Actress — as did villain Alexander Skarsgard. B.L.L also scored a Best Limited Series nomination against the likes of Fargo, Feud, and The Night Of. Unfortunately, all of this good news should actually be a huge red flag for fans of the show as we await news of a prospective (and much-prayed for) season 2.
Each and every Big Little Lies nomination is under the "Limited Series" category, as opposed to a traditional "Drama" or "Comedy" category. Unlike the pure genre classifications, any series up for a limited series Emmy should tell its story completely in one season and cannot have "an on-going storyline and/or main characters in subsequent seasons,” according to the Television Academy rules. That’s why Big Little Lies is "limited." It also explains why an anthology project like Feud: Bette And Joan is placed in this category. The screen icons’ entire story was wrapped up in eight episodes. When Feud season 2 premieres, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford’s Hollywood vendettas will be scrapped in favor of the Buckingham Palace drama that was Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
Similarly, The Night Of was a lengthy meditation on finding out who actually killed Andrea Cornish (Sofia Black-D'Elia). That tale was told from start to confirmed finish in one season. It’s already been heavily hinted if there is a Night Of season 2, it won’t be a straight continuation of Naz’s (Riz Ahmed) story as we’ve come to expect from most shows’ sophomore years. Does that mean Big Little Lies first season also has to be its last with Madeline McKenzie (Witherspoon), Celeste Wright (Kidman), Renata Klein (Dern), Jane Chapman (Woodley), and Bonnie Carlson (the Emmys-snubbed Zoe Kravitz)?
Not exactly. Big Little Lies was established specifically as a limited series based off of a 2014 book of the same name. The HBO series told the entirety of that story over its seven episodes, ending in the same way the novel finishes. The producers didn’t originally plan to pull a Game of Thrones and continue the story past the source material, so season 1 finale "You Get What You Need" should ostensibly be the formal ending. Plus, there are currently no concrete plans to officially begin a season 2 of Big Little Lies, despite the fact every fan is hoping the series didn’t end with that eff the patriarchy beach trip in Monterey. With all of these justifications behind them, it makes sense for HBO to submit the murder mystery as a limited series. This is especially true considering the fact the Emmys Best Drama Series category is usually glutted with outstanding possible nominees. Just this year, The Leftovers, The Americans, and the dazzling premium cable newbie American Gods were all left out in the cold. It wouldn't make strategic sense to nominate Big Little Lies for a traditional Best Drama Series award.
All in all, the Limited Series nomination isn’t a total death knell for Madeline & Co. as the team behind Little Lies is probably batting around ideas as you read this. "I have started to think about ways this could continue," original novel writer and Big Little Lies producer Liane Moriarty told Australian publication The Sydney Morning Herald. "The producers have asked me to see if I can come up with some ideas. I wouldn't write a new book, but perhaps a new story and then we'll see what happens." Moriarty also confirmed Bonnie’s abusive childhood and Celeste’s life after the death of her abusive husband Perry Wright (Skarsgard) would be the major anchors of a possible second season. Showrunner David E. Kelley is also slowing getting on board, admitting the series was conceptualized as a “one-off,” but now everyone from the writing team to the A-list cast is leaning in to the idea of a season 2.
Prospective Emmys wins for Big Little Lies, which scored 16 nominations, would only add fuel to the fire of a sophomore run. So, fingers crossed we see some of our favorite faux Monterey residents on the 69th Emmy Awards stage come September 17. Maybe that means we’ll see Big Little Lies up for the traditional Best Drama award in no time.
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